Cover image for Return passages : great American travel writing, 1780-1910
Return passages : great American travel writing, 1780-1910
Ziff, Larzer, 1927-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New Haven [Conn.] : Yale University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
304 pages : illustrations, map ; 22 cm
John Ledyard -- John Lloyd Stephens -- Bayard Taylor -- Mark Twain -- Henry James.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS366.T73 Z54 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Ziff (English, Johns Hopkins) traces the history of American travel writing from the end of the Revolution to the outbreak of WWI. The author commences with two men who traveled first and later wrote about it. John Ledyard (1752-1789) became arguably the first professional and copyrighted author in the US with his memoirs of travels with Captain Cook, and John Lloyd Stephens (1805-1852) discovered hundreds of ruins in the Yucatan and Central America. Ziff continues with two writers who traveled to gather material: Bayard Taylor (1852-1878) journeyed not only far and wide but also diversified his means of travel (dhows, reindeer sleighs, banghy carts, warships) to invigorate his narratives; and Mark Twain (1835- 1910), who when he wrote Innocents Abroad (1869), was a roving correspondent skewering sentimental travel books, tourists, and European monuments. Henry James (1843-1916), a logical and temporal conclusion to this American travel pantheon, seemed equal parts writer and traveler. Through these five, an array of styles and attitudes emerge, united primarily by a contemplation of an increasingly problematic American identity. Annotation copyrighted by Book News Inc., Portland, OR

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Ziff, a professor of English, analyzes five U.S. travel writers who were outstanding contributors to the genre in the period between the end of the Revolution and the outbreak of World War I. His scholarly but not dry examination of the travel writing of these five men is underscored by the fact that, although travel writing has been very popular with both writers and the reading public, it remains "critically undervalued." As rectification, Ziff evaluates the work of John Ledyard (1752^-89), whose considerable reputation rests on his account of Captain John Cook's third voyage; John Lloyd Stephens (1805^-52), whose books about Mayan civilization are still regarded as classics; Bayard Taylor (1825^-78), who established travel writing as a "legitimate literary activity"; Mark Twain (1835^-1910), whose first book was a travel book and sold better than any of his novels; and Henry James (1843^-1916), who insisted that "an American writer had no choice but to deal with Europe if he wished to be complete." For anyone interested in the history of travel literature. --Brad Hooper

Library Journal Review

In this scholarly study, noted literary historian and author Ziff (Writing in the New Nation) explores the progress of travel writing in America through the works of five great writers, including John Ledyard, who wrote of sailing with Captain Cook to the Pacific, John Lloyd Stephens, explorer of Central America and founder of Maya archaeology, and Bayard Taylor, among whose many works is a firsthand account of Commodore Perry's mission to Japan. Although these three men are largely forgotten today, Henry James and Mark Twain, whose Innocents Abroad outsold his fiction during his lifetime, also recognized the potential for income in this popular genre. Through their works, wide-eyed Americans imagined a vast new nation and faraway lands and peoples they could only dream of. Ziff quotes extensively from the originals, which will encourage many readers to get hold of complete copies. Recommended for academic libraries with comprehensive collections in 19th-century literature.DLinda M. Kaufmann, Massachusetts Coll. of Liberal Arts Lib., North Adams (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Examining the works of five key authors--John Ledyard, John Stephens, Bayard Taylor, Mark Twain, and Henry James--Ziff (Johns Hopkins) traces the development of American travel writing from its Revolutionary-era origins as descriptive and quasi-scientific chronicle to its later flowering as literary narrative. Skirting the travel literature of the US's earliest settlement and subsequent westward expansion, Ziff deals with works that set their authors well beyond the national borders. Each tests, in some fashion, notions of the US itself through the various lenses of physical distance, cultural immersion, and self-discovery. Distinctly American themes resonate throughout these works, from the democratic ideals imbedded in Ledyard's account of Cook's third voyage to the Pacific to James's thesis concerning the "completion" of the American self by travel to the Old World. Ziff brings welcome critical attention to the largely forgotten works of Taylor, whose commercial success contribu ted significantly to the development of the profession of travel writer, and to Stephens's stylistically innovative account of his archeological expeditions in Central America. Written in elegant prose, Ziff's book is a substantial companion to such recent anthologies as Beth Lynne Lueck's American Writers and the Picturesque Tour: The Search for National Identity, 1790-1860 (1997). All academic collections. J. K. Weinberger Central Connecticut State University